The anachronistic term arranged marriage conjures up all sorts of, generally negative, images — terrified child brides, life-long servitude, and misogyny. So, when Citylife heard of a happily married couple who had entered into their wedded bliss via family arrangements, we couldn’t resist interviewing them for our Valentine’s issue.
Bubbly and chatty Chanchala, 25 and her more reserved husband Dharmesh, 34, walked into the Rivermarket Restaurant for our interview looking like any young couple in love; touching, smiling and constantly looking at one another for confirmation when answering a question. Originally from India, they now live in Chiang Mai, where Dharmesh works as a technician manager in a diamond company.
“Members of both our families, from parents and grandparents, to our siblings, all had arranged marriages,” chatted Chanchala, “and it has worked out for all of us.”
A smart and modern woman, Chanchala was studying her MBA a couple of years ago when one day her mother told her that she had found a man for her. “I have many friends and was busy studying, so I had never had a boyfriend. Dharmesh left school and entered the diamond industry, and he had been living in Chiang Mai for about three years by then, so he had never had a girlfriend either. The first thing we did was send our photos to each other via What’s App.”
“We both liked what we saw,” said Dharmesh shyly. “I have always known that my family love me and would choose my partner wisely,” added Chanchala. “Dharmesh’s family was from a similar background as ours — cast and religion — and although his family was less wealthy, my parents knew him to be a hardworking and independent man who supported his family.”
“I was so relieved when I saw his picture and he was good looking! I was afraid he would be old,” she laughed. “We then started doing video calls on Skype. We just clicked. From the first conversation, we had so much to say to each other and immediately found common ground. We started talking in September and by early December we had agreed to get married. We were texting and Skyping many times a day and we felt as though we knew each other deeply, even though we didn’t actually meet until the end of December.”
“Our first date was over a pizza,” Chanchala grinned. “It was a bit weird because he wouldn’t stop staring at me! And for once I was so shy I couldn’t speak, so he did all the talking.”
“I couldn’t take my eyes off her, she was so beautiful,” Dharmesh smiled.
Within two days the couple were engaged in a traditional Roka engagement ceremony and by New Year’s Eve Dharmesh had returned to Chiang Mai; having only spent a few days with his soon to be bride.
“It was all so easy,” said Dharmesh. “Chanchala organised everything, I just flew in for the wedding and then there we were, off on a honeymoon to Phuket.”
“Weird? No, not at all. By that time, we knew each other so very well. We were in constant communication. It was all so natural. Our parents both made excellent choices and we couldn’t be happier,” beamed Chanchala.
“Dharmesh was quite bored with Thailand by then, but it was all so new to me, so we did everything together and we are loving it here. I cook and shop while he works, I have friends here too and am looking for a job. We go out for dinner a lot and to the movies. We enjoy each other very much.”
“She is so intelligent and educated, and she understands me and is so good to me. She also entertains me and makes me laugh,” added Dharmesh of their two year marriage. “She makes everything special. She decorates our house for traditional holidays, she cooks feasts of my favouite food.”
“And he likes to surprise me with fun gifts and he always kisses me on the forehead every morning before going to work. He gives me a salary and I manage our household and our lives. It just works.”
“When we have children, we will definitely recommend that they have arranged marriages,” concluded Chanchala with a smile. “Of course we won’t force them, but we hope that they will listen to our advice. We are very grateful to our parents.”